Poškonys, Dieveniškės appendixJuly 12, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C
A small dam has been built across the River Gauja, creating a lake on the outskirts of Poškonys village. We are parked, with a border of pines, overlooking this lake, after an exciting day exploring the Dieveniškės Appendix.
After Vicky had indulged in her photography at the Gaujas Botanical Path, we returned to the car park at Poškonys so Will could indulge in his swimming and fishing. Getting back to the village was a challenge due to the road being dug up and layed with soft sand in preparation (we assume) for its first taste of tarmac. Martha's wheels span nearly all the way up the long hill, but Will drove well and we made it to the bright yellow flapboard village store. Stepping back into the van after picking up a few groceries, a drunken local wedged himself in Will's door as he tried to close it, asking for euros. He wasn't aggressive, but he was forceful and invaded our space. It put us on edge but we decided to go ahead and stay at the lakeside camp 400m away as planned and everything worked out ok. The group of 3 middle aged women in the shop had been buying beer. We wonder how much of a problem alcohol abuse is in the Dieveniškės Appendix? The main occupation is farming but with the controlled border, poor infrastructure, little public transport and few people owning private vehicles it is difficult to sell produce outside of the area. Depopulation is more extreme here than in the rest of Lithuania. The isolation is an alluring charm to people like us, who stay short term, but we can see there are many difficulties and hardships endured by those who call it home.
The following morning we went in search of an 'ethnographic museum' Vicky remembered seeing signs for, but which we couldn't find any trace of online. Maps.Me showed a tourist information office on the other side of the village so we thought we'd ask there. Entering the traditional looking, grey painted, wooden clad building we were surprised to find a large, modern space within. The staff member didn't speak english but enthusiastically passed us an i-pad with audio tour of the exhibits in 5 languages, including our own. The ethnographic centre and tourist information office must be one and the same, as the tour covered the poitical and cultural history of the appendix, together with flora, and fauna, while the second storey exhibited a whole load of artefacts including a spinning wheel, wood and leather shoes, weaving loom, farmimg equipment and even a moonshine still. The walls were hung with beautiful handwoven tartan-like fabrics whose colours stood out effectively against the rustic wooden beams.
We've gained so much from visiting Lithuania's national and regional parks that we decided to buy another voluntary annual ticket. Using speech to text translation, we'd just managed to communicate what we wanted, when a coach load of Lithuanian tourists surged in, surrounding and jostling us as they peered at the beeswax candles and magnets for sale on the desk. The harrased member of staff hurriedly found our ticket, a usb wristband (containing printable tickets and additional info) and accepted our donation with gratitude before focussing on the task of guiding these other visitors. We gladly escaped into the street, appreciating the space and quiet Lithuania has been so good at providing!
Yesterday's inward bound passage past the border post had been simple. The outward bound jouney was more official. On the approach we could see the car in front of us being searched. We too were told to stop and asked for our passports. We'd read yesterday that Belarus was the only european country that still had the death penalty, a fact which put us more than a little on edge. One of the camouflage clad officials asked to see inside Martha, but after a cursory check he seemed satisfied and concluded the search, allowing us on our way.
Our trip to Dieveniškės put us a little out of our comfort zone, but at the same time it opened up a world of discovery. We saw some wonderful wildlife, learnt more about Lithuania's history, about how it had shaped local culture and the lives of Dieveniškės residents. We came away feeling enriched and grateful for the freedom that had afforded us these experiences.
To see a 3 minute video of our journey out, head over to the VnW Travels YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/OuSYvjJxg2ERead more